Tag Archives: River Thames

tiddler treasures in the thames


This weekend I was privileged to be able to fish both days during the switch of tides. The water was clearer than I have ever seen it and although there are always man made items in the river, the amount of plastic has vastly reduced compared to the levels I became accustomed to seeing in 2013.

Massive thanks to everyone who makes real effort to reduce litter and pollution in this city. The water clarity is the best I've seen it and the prolific abundance of fish is evidence of a recovering river.

Massive thanks to everyone who makes real effort to reduce litter and pollution in this city. Water clarity is the best I’ve seen it and the prolific abundance of fish is evidence of a recovering river.

I worked my way through my favourite spots, eagerly anticipating a bite, scanning for evidence of fish as always. Cormorants, herons and grebes are abundant – sure signs of viable fish populations. It was not long before I saw shoals of baitfish and I did my best to put together a pattern that worked. Low tide is an exciting time, below and above the surface. Fast currents pull food to waiting fish, slow waters gather nutrients and provide comfortable resting places for predators and prey alike.

On both days the magic happened during a little time window coinciding with the onset of the incoming tide. The best way to describe it is when the current gently grinds to a halt, then s.l.o.w.l.y. changes direction. All of a sudden the river begins to boil softly with the constant rising of myriads of baitfish. There is little chance of predicting exactly where they rise – all around me in every direction: spates of little fish leaping clear of the surface or delicately sipping morsels from the film.

My humble Mrs Simpson chugged along, faithfully tracing staccato arcs through the water – how long before a giant slab of silver would latch on in the frenzied hope of yet another mouthful? Action came in tiny yet explosive packages – brave perch knocked my fly doggedly, regardless of their diminutive stature. First one took me by surprise and I did not have the heart to set the hook – it bounced free with an unplanned tailwalk into a splash landing. I chuckled at my heightened senses, the pounding in my heart inversely proportional to the size of the prize. The next attacker was larger and less fortunate as a result – even tiddler perch have cavernous mouths – and I was delighted to get this unusual picture for my catch catalogue:

The joy of fishing in the Thames is not knowing what may latch on - every cast could produce one of many different species. This time it was a feisty perch - Perca fluviatilis falling prey to the seductive powers of a Mrs Simpson pattern tied from woodcock feathers.

The joy of fishing in the Thames is not knowing what may latch on – every cast could produce one of many different species. This time it was a feisty perch – Perca fluviatilis falling prey to the seductive powers of my Mrs Simpson pattern tied from woodcock feathers.

Back into the Thames on the rising tide... The water was the cleanest I've seen it since I started fishing there in March last year. Big thanks to everyone who makes real effort to reduce litter and pollution in this city.

Back into the Thames on the rising tide… The water was the cleanest I’ve seen it since I started fishing there in March last year.

Not long after the fun began, it suddenly turned quiet. A westerly wind came up and I had to return to the safety of higher ground, driven by the rising tide. After having blanked on every previous visit since August last year, I was overjoyed to have caught and released a new species on a metiefly pattern, irrespective of its tiny size.

Day two was even more fun for me as I anticipated the prospects of success, armed with my recently acquired knowledge. I had visions of a shoal of sea trout cutting through pods of baitfish, chasing them down in the shallows, herding them against the surface and gorging on my meticulously presented fly. I toyed with the option of a smaller fly to specifically target the baitfish, then quickly rejected it, steadfast in my resolve to catch a sea trout. After all, the little fish last night had no trouble gulping my Mrs Simpson:

This fly proved itself with tiny perch... would it step up to the challenge of a wily Sea Trout?

This fly proved itself with tiny perch… would it step up to the challenge of a wily Sea Trout?

I chose to fish upstream into pockets of rolling currents, challenged by the need to strip my fly quicker than the current to give it some action – after a few casts, I was shocked to have a savage take, only to discover this – for a few milliseconds I was besides myself thinking it was a young trout or a salmon par, then to discover it was a dace, known to ichthyologists as Leuciscus leuciscus. Another new species – Mrs Simpson was on a roll!

Leuciscus leuciscus - dace... These can grow to a decent size. I look forward to finding out more about them in due course.

Leuciscus leuciscus – dace… These can grow to a decent size. I look forward to finding out more about them in due course.

Like clockwork, the tides switched and the boiling began, this time I cast in the region of the biggest swirls, retrieving rapidly in the hope of attracting attention to my fly. No bites. As soon as I slowed down my retrieve to a steady figure of eight – wham! Another stunning photo opportunity:

Day two, number two - I was amazed at how hard he struck and with the bend he managed to put in my rod! Notice how clear the water is, despite a downpour earlier in the day.

Day two, number two – I was amazed at how hard he struck and with the bend he managed to put in my rod! Notice how clear the water is, despite a downpour earlier in the day.

My next perch was the brightest of the bunch, helped by a perfect splash of sunshine exactly on time for the picture:

Perfect poser! I love these colourful little fish... So do cormorants and grebes!

Perfect poser! I love these colourful little fish… So do cormorants and grebes!

I was in the zone, having worked out how to catch them, each one seemed slightly larger than the one before…

See what I mean about cavernous mouths?

See what I mean about cavernous mouths?

Finally, just when I had waded back towards my homeward shoreline, I had the biggest take of them all:

Day two, perch number four!

Day two, perch number four!

What wonderful additions to my Thames catch catalogue after two highly enjoyable afternoons. I am thrilled to have discovered what lies underneath the surface during “happy hour” – one thing I know for sure: some of those baitfish were leaping because they were chasing down food; most of them were leaping for their lives, desperately escaping much bigger mouths under the surface. It will not be long before my next sojourn…

Thank you for reading – I look forward to seeing you back here again soon!

urban trout wanderings…


Today’s bright weather seemed ideal for me to return and search for the completely unexpected trout that graces my memory so often since I saw it four years ago. Up early, I enjoyed an invigorating walk, admiring the clean water in the Thames as I went. I left the river wondering how soon I will meet another sea trout, or perhaps even my first Thames salmon this season… Amazing thoughts!

I cannot help thinking that all the rain we received earlier this year definitely helped flush out our waterways. The Tidal Thames seldom looks crystal clear, however the water is in the best condition I have ever seen it at the moment.

I cannot help thinking that all the rain we received earlier this year definitely helped flush out our waterways. The Tidal Thames seldom looks crystal clear, however the water is in the best condition I have ever seen it at the moment.

As I made my way towards the magical stream, my excitement grew  – is it too much to expect a small population of fish to cling on to survival, despite all the potential threats? What about all the rains we had in the winter? I peeped into the water as I crossed the first bridge, delighted to see it running clear and full, ample sign of aquatic life in every nook and cranny. In stealth mode, I walked quietly and swiftly, eyes peeled and tuned into my surroundings… Springtime is such an intoxicating gift, so full of promise and abundance!

Embracing the joy of Springtime - definitely worth the long winter nights...

Embracing the joy of Springtime – definitely worth the long winter nights…

The first shoal of fish gave themselves away, scattering as a breathtakingly beautiful pair of mandarin ducks sneaked along the far shoreline. About thirty fish slightly longer than my hand darted with such speed… I think they were common dace, conspicuous by their fast movement and the reddish tinge to their fins. Glad that I had spotted some fish, I was even more eager to locate a trout!

This pair has a massive territorial range, unless there are multiple pairs along this stretch of river - I saw some at the top end of my walkabout, as well as near the start. They are literally breathtaking especially when the sun shines on them so perfectly.

This pair has a massive territorial range, unless there are several pairs along this stretch of river – I saw some at the top end of my walkabout, as well as near the start. They are stunning to behold, especially when the sun shines on them so perfectly.

I pushed further upstream until a large, deep pool gave me reason to feel that there must be a trout here if there are to be any in the river… Shadows criss-crossed the calm water and I was grateful for my polarised sunglasses, peering into the depths. Almost imperceptibly, a shape loomed up from the darkness… About 30 centimetres of exactly what I had been searching for! Two others joined it and I savoured the experience of watching them frolic in the slow moving current. I caught myself wondering what the passers by thought I was staring at so intently. Clear pictures would be tricky to take because of the reflections in the water so I marked the spot mentally for future visits and walked on upstream.

The following video was taken after I had witnessed countless trout in several sections of the stream… Ideal habitat is limited, however from this short clip you can see for yourself that numbers are strong for the time being:

I spent a couple of idyllic hours filming and photographing these amazing fish… Enjoy the footage and if you want to see more, please visit my urban trout page.

There were about four species of fish schooling together... I would love to know if there are a mix of brown trout and rainbow trout in this population! Perhaps the need to conduct some catch and release research in due course

There were about four species of fish schooling together. I would love to know if there is a mix of brown trout and rainbow trout in this population! Perhaps a need to conduct some catch and release research in due course!

Considering the number of pictures and videos I took, there are not many that show them up close and personal... But then again most of my readers will know how hard it is to get within close photographic distance on a clear sunny day!

Considering the number of pictures and videos I took, there are not many that show the trout ‘up close and personal’… then again – most readers will understand the challenge of getting within close photographic distance on a clear sunny day!

I am still struggling to contain my excitement - and to think that I saw fish from at least three different year groups. I will have to catch and release a few to ensure correct identification... Will they be resident browns, sea trout or rainbows?

I am still struggling to contain my excitement – and to think that I saw fish from at least three different year groups. I will have to catch and release a few to ensure correct identification… Will they be resident browns, sea trout or rainbows?

Once again I sincerely thank all the wonderful people who toil so hard to keep our rivers clean – please let’s all continue to do whatever we can too.

Thank you for reading, I look forward to your next visit!

adult damselfly prototypes


I was delighted when Orvis had exactly what I was looking for this afternoon! A brisk walk into town paid off when I was able to source some blue closed cell foam and some navy blue hackles. The prototypes of my blue damselfly are not ideal yet, however each time I tie another one, I am a step closer to unlocking the perfect formula. I was impressed with the wrapped deer hair tails on some of Orvis’s flies however they lack the sparkle of the Krystal Flash.

I might try some of these tomorrow in the hope of coaxing an unsuspecting trout into thinking he’s getting the first one of the season!

A variety of different techniques show certain promise however I'm not there yet - looks like I still have some exploring to do!

A variety of different techniques show certain promise however I’m not there yet – looks like I still have some exploring to do!

Early days - they need some field testing to see what O. mykiss thinks so far...

Early days – they need some field testing to see what O. mykiss thinks so far…

On our return walk from Central London, I picked up a piece of orange Organdie ribbon, which I turned into streamers for the Thames – orange is a hot favourite when water clarity is not great.

Remember to keep your eyes peeled at all times - tying materials are not necessarily expensive and you never know when your next breakthrough ingredient is about to reveal itself!

Remember to keep your eyes peeled at all times – tying materials are not necessarily expensive and you never know when your next breakthrough ingredient is about to reveal itself!

If you click on my link to the Featherbender blog on the right hand column, then search the site for 'organdie' you will find an amazing pattern for saltwater shrimp... Enjoy!

If you click on my link to the Featherbender blog on the right hand column, then search the site for ‘organdie’ you will find an amazing pattern for saltwater shrimp… Enjoy!

Thank you for reading, I look forward to your next visit!

running repairs – staying sharp


I try to minimise what I carry with me while I fish. Mobility and comfort are essential and the more I lug around, the higher the chances of forgetting something along my way during my adventures. One of the key items I take along is a little whetstone, mine is actually a fragment of one that was passed on to me as a boy:

This is a key piece of my kit, useful for running repairs and using it improves my catch rate significantly

This is a key piece of my kit, useful for running repairs and using it improves my catch rate significantly

Here’s how I put it to use: Regardless of how skilled or experienced one may be, there will be a time that your fly hits an object, either on the back cast or perhaps a tree, or any number of underwater possibilities. If you are lucky enough to retrieve it, very often, the point of the hook is blunt. Sometimes, usually after a back cast strikes a stone, the very end of the tip may have snapped off. Instead of just forging ahead, or discarding the fly, I reach for my whetstone and similar to using a nail file, I hone a new hook point. For best results, hold the fly hook point upwards, then create a three sided pyramidal point by filing either side and the top edge to meet in a sharp point.

It may take a little practice at first, however the payoff is definitely worth it when the fish are biting on the only fly in your box of a particular pattern!

This beautiful specimen bit shortly after I had re-sharpened my hook after connecting with a barbed wire fence on my back cast... Glad I had my handy whetstone and that I had made the effort to use it!

This beautiful specimen bit shortly after I had re-sharpened my hook after connecting with a barbed wire fence on my back cast… Glad I had my handy whetstone and that I had made the effort to use it!

Hope this helps you in your ongoing adventures – best of luck…

Thank you for reading, as always.

fish out of water


Thriving ecosystems are characterised by a plenitude of signs, tracks and evidence of hard fought battles of wits, stealth and cunning as different species clash in the never ending dynamic of survival of the fittest.

Yesterday whilst walking, we crossed the bridge over the Duke of Northumberland’s river in Isleworth and my wife stopped suddenly – as if by magic, six little fish were neatly arranged on the pavement, still moist and upon closer inspection, slightly digested by the stomach acid of a predatory bird. As we took pictures and tried to work out how they got there, on top of the side wall of the bridge, we noticed an even rarer surprise! A tiny specimen of a Thames flatfish had been regurgitated yet, because of its shape, it had not rolled off the wall onto the pavement below. I have no idea if the predator had been a heron, a cormorant, a grebe or even possibly a kingfisher – whilst trying to solve the riddle, it struck me how extremely fortunate we are to have such abundant biodiversity in our waterways that run through the heart of this immense city. Many species of birds and fish have been here for aeons and despite our ever encroaching threat, they still carve out their existence alongside us.

I feel privileged to share this message – enjoy the pictures:

six little minnows - I'd love to know how they got there... Did a cormorant, or a heron get a fright and cough them up? Was it a kingfisher or a grebe that had eaten too much? Leave a comment if you think you know the answer

six little minnows – I’d love to know how they got there… Did a cormorant, or a heron get a fright and cough them up? Was it a kingfisher or a grebe that had eaten too much? Leave a comment if you think you know the answer

I'm not an Icthyologist, I'm an Icthyologist's son... Please tell me if this is a baby flounder, plaice or sole?

I’m not an Ichthyologist, I’m an Ichthyologist’s son… Please tell me if this is a baby flounder, plaice or sole?

Wherever you are in the world, contemplate how you can increase awareness. Can you make further little adjustments (or big ones) to your lifestyle to live in better harmony with your surroundings? The more we look after Nature, the more it will look after us!

Thank you for reading – please visit again soon.

A journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step…


This is one of the best written articles I’ve read, and how important to digest its message in this day and age.

Massive thanks to my Darling for sharing it with me, and of course to the author:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/arianna-huffington/hemingway-thoreau-jeffers_b_3837002.html

How long will it be before you step out into nature, for no other reason than to simply be in it? Plan your time wisely and make the most of it!

Thanks for reading, please visit again soon!

Tried and tested – discovering true champions is always fun!


One of the joys of modern times is how quickly available information is on the Internet. More than ever before, there is an immediate and unprecedented wealth of knowledge, advice and practical demonstration at the touch of a screen or only a few buttons. I am grateful to all my fellow bloggers, the many professionals and the talented amateurs who generously upload their videos from all corners of the globe – I salute you all!

My recent pioneering into the realms of tying flies for sea trout and sea bass resulted in some great winners and some even more fantastic flops along my steep learning curve… What glorious victory I savoured when my very own pattern produced the fish of my dreams out of the Thames! Since that day I tweaked the formula several times in different directions. Hook size? Dumbbell eyes? Bead or bead chain? Arctic fox or buck tail? No flash, lots of flash or just a little? I enthusiastically ventured down all these paths and more. Once I felt I knew enough to confirm I have SO much more to learn I researched the tried and tested patterns that have been the go-to patterns for so many for so long: Lefty’s Deceiver, the Clouser Minnow and the Sand Eel.

There’s a reason why they work so well. They do exactly what they need to… No more, no less. Simplicity of design and ruggedness are key. I produced some mini Clouser minnows and swam them in the Thames last weekend. No bites, however water conditions were not ideal and I can see from the way they move and sparkle that they’ll produce takes whenever I’m able to put them in front of a fish.

Thank you Mr Clouser... Simplicity of design and ruggedness. Everything I look for when catching the fish of my dreams

Thank you Mr Clouser… Simplicity of design and ruggedness. Everything I look for when catching the fish of my dreams

Thank you for reading – please visit again soon!